The Awakening, which was written by Kate Chopin, received a great deal of criticism when it was first published in 1899. Much of the controversy over the novel arose because of the character of Edna Pontellier. Edna was very much unlike the women of her time. In today’s terms she would be considered a rebel. Edna opposed the traditional roles of society that kept many restraints on the women of the 1800’s. According to traditional society of the 1800’s women were assigned the duties of tending the home, caring for their husband, and bearing children. On the other hand, the men of this time were to be considered the authority of the household and were basically in charge of what goes on throughout the household internally and externally as well as mentally and physically. It is Edna’s choice to disobey these roles and her need for self-discovery, which cause a shocking end to this adventure to find her true self.
In her critique, the female artist in Kate Chopin’s The Awakening: Birth and Creativity, Carlene Stone takes the reader through stages of Edna’s struggle to become an artist showing direct correlation with her becoming and individual and in control of her own self. For example she states how Robert’s encouragement while she is painting is very innocent in the beginning but eventually lead’s to the awakening of her passions of her body and her falling in love with Robert. The fact that Edna falls for Robert goes against those societal roles which where followed by some many women of the 1800’s. Robert plays a big role in Edna’s self-development through artistry and love by being a huge source of imaginative power. Stone then goes on making references to the scene in which she grows tired during Mass and leaves with Robert who takes her to Madame Antoine’s home. She states that stories told by Madame Antoine represents the oral tradition of art and that this day is the high point of Edna’s imagination and she will return to it in her memory as she paints. Another form of art in which Stone refers to is structured art, which is supplied by Mme. Reisz. Mme. Reisz plays her music with great feeling and art, which evokes pictures in Eden’s mind and her passions of her body, arise once again. These pictures and passions once again contribute greatly to the continuing development of Edna’s artistic growth, which continues to lead to her self-discovery. Stone also expresses that Mme. Reisz is influential by giving Edna insight on what is needed to be an artist to make sure she is committed. Another concept which Stone comments on is Edna’s enjoyment of solitude in her new house of art which was paid for with inheritance and the selling of her pictures which is a symbol of her independence. At this point in the novel Stone remarks that Enda had defined herself as an artist but soon after that there is two events that occur simultaneously which end up defeating Edna’s search for artistic wholeness. (29) The two events are the witnessing of childbirth and Robert’s admitting to his love for her. The witnessing of childbirth reminds Edna that she cannot rebel against nature and the fact that she has children and they must be tended to conflicts with her newfound freedom. The fact that Robert disappears after admitting his love greatly affects the growth of her imagination that as stated earlier is the source of her art. Edna’s artistic life is suddenly ended by these two occurrences. Enda then walks to her death in the sea. Stone assumes that Edna drowns herself because she can no longer live as a conventional mother and wife, and society will not accept her newfound self. Then the question of whether or not Edna’s death is positive arises and Stone states that “Nevertheless End Portlier succeeds in giving birth to a new self even though the fact that she can not live on earth as this new self is tragic.”
This novel is very interesting in the way it enfolds. All throughout the novel you have a women looking for self-deliverance which is being achieved through artistry. Then she finally achieves her goal of self-discovery by becoming an artist and very soon after that she loses it which leads to her to suicide. Stone does a very good job of going through the stages of her artistry which envovles her self-deliverance and explaining how it all correlates together.